It's a problem a local gun store owner describes as disturbing, frustrating and unsafe. Right now, there's no system in place for store owners to verify whether a gun has been reported stolen before they buy or sell the weapon. Our Stef Manisero shows us what one store owner wants, and why Austin police say it's not possible.
"About three or four years. Years," said Michael Cargill of Central Texas Gun Works.
That's how long Michael Cargill said he's been pushing Austin Police for change.
Cargill continued, "I should just be able to call APD and run the serial number and verify if the gun’s been stolen."
Cargill believes he and other gun storeowners should be able to instantly check the guns brought into their stores.
"I should be able to call 3-1-1, or call the non-emergency number, say, 'Hey, let me give you this serial number,' they run it, and then we’ll know," Cargil added.
Right now, he said, his only option is to call police, and have an officer come to his store.
APD said pawnshops don't find out instantly either.
They're required to give local police a record of every item brought into their store; Gun shops are not.
"Because the pawn shops are governed by state law, and the guns are a federal statute, and us being a city, you know, we do what the law is required," said Jason Staniszewski of APD.
Every week, volunteers collect pawnshop records and enter that information in a database.
If a gun's been reported stolen, police are notified.
They suggest business owners use a website called Leads Online.
Staniszewski added, "They'll enter the information, the serial number, and that will go to the police department."
Still, that's a one-way street that doesn't offer immediate feedback.
In places like Florida and Oregon, state agencies have stepped in with searchable websites or hotlines.
Here in Texas, police in cities like Corpus Christi also man a non-emergency number for instant checks.
We asked APD if a similar effort would help here.
Officer Staniszewski continued, "I mean, we’d be able to recover stolen items, that in itself would make it safer."
"Well, if you want to get illegal guns off the street, police chief, then help me out, help me," Cargill concluded.
It's one man's push for a change that APD said is out of its reach.
Austin Police say gun stores are regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
The ATF says local police departments have the capability to routinely check guns to determine if they are stolen, but it's up to individual departments whether they do so.
-- ATF Policies --
All federal firearms licensees are required to report the loss of any firearm, regardless of whether it was theft, loss, robbery, etc. This is a requirement for them to remain licensed by ATF.
ATF does not routinely run guns to determine whether they are stolen.
Local police departments have the capability to do so, but it is up to their individual policies whether they do so.
If pawn shops are FFL's, they are under the same requirements.
If a new law is enacted on the federal level, that would have to come from Congress.
-- Other State's Policies --
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement offers a website where anyone can type in a serial number and find out instantly if that gun’s been reported stolen.
The Oregon State Police use a Firearm Instant Check System, a hotline that does the same.
-- Policies in Other Texas Cities --
According to the Corpus Christi Police Department, a gun shop owner or a private citizen may call the department's non-emergency number at 886-2600, and a call taker will assist them with this issue.
The call taker will run the serial number through the state and national records database, TCIC/NCIC. The call taker is allowed by law to tell the person if the gun serial number is reported as stolen.
It is up to the consumer to find out which individual gun shops use this method or if they have other means of accomplishing the gun check.
Police said all property that is pawned or sold at Corpus Christi pawn shops and second hand stores must be reported, by ordinance, to the Pawn Shop Detail. The majority of these shops use LeadsOnline.com. Some shops still complete paper pawn tickets. All LeadsOnline.com and paper ticket transactions are run through TCIC/NCIC and when a stolen "hit" is recorded, that item is immediately place on a law enforcement hold to allow for a complete investigation